Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Run DMc Hits His Stride

Raiders 59 - Donkeys 14

It is rather hard to believe but Darren McFadden just turned 23 a few months ago. Run DMc's performance vs. the Donkeys on Sunday was the super-charged engine that drove the Raiders to a record setting, awe-inspiring day.

#20 had some eye-popping stats (16 carries, 165 rushing yards, 10.3 average, 3 rushing TDs including a 57 yard video game romp; 2 receptions for 31 yards including a 19 yard reception on a 3rd and goal screen call from the 19 yard line).

Besides the bulging average per touch, what stuck me was his decisiveness with making his cuts and finishing his runs with violent vigor. This outstanding performance is the next step in his career progression. McFadden was well on his way to a fantastic 2010 before pulling his hamstring in week 4 just before the 1st half.

Here are his stats in the previous games:

Week 1 at Titans: 18 carries, 95 yards, 5.3 avg.
Week 2 vs. Rams: 30 carries, 145 yards, 4.8 avg.
Week 3 at Cards: 25 carries, 105 yards, 4.2 avg
Week 4 vs. Texans: 12 carries, 47 yards, 3.9 avg.

Missing weeks 5 and 6 vs. SD and SF, it was amazing for McFadden to have his career rushing day in his 1st time back on the field.

McFadden's 2010 Stats:

Rushing: 101 carries, 557 yards, 5.5 avg., 4 rushing TDs (3 of 5 games with 100+ yards)

Receiving: 18 receptions, 193 yards, 10.7 avg, 2 reception (please Huey ... dial up more screens to #20)

Misc. Notes and Comments:

This dismantling of the Donkeys was surreal. I had to do a double-take and calibrate the score and clock. I asked my buddy at one point "Is it really Raiders 21-0 with over 7 and half minutes to go in the 1st Quarter?!"

The morale of the team must be sky high after this type of win where every unit contributed mightily to a dominating team victory.

Rookie LT Veldheer had a "break-out" game and was clearly the key cog to spring McFadden loose. This was the type of game for Valdheer to cement his place as the starter at LT for the rest of the year. His size, quick feet, tenacity, and football IQ are a solid platform to become an elite LT.

To build momentum and take the next step in climbing the competitive ladder, the Raiders need to follow-up this victory by tearing the Sea Chickens' wings off next week. The team cannot ill afford to take the air out of the balloon by falling prey to the roller coaster syndrome where a good win is followed up by a bad loss. (ie. SD win followed by SF dud).

It is critical for the Raiders to establish a level of consistency in terms of effort and execution. In order to become a playoff caliber team, the team needs to start stringing together multiple wins. It all starts with an opportunity for the 1st back to back wins since December of 2008. Let's do this!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Flat, Listless, Inconsistent, and Uninspiring Raiders

Raiders 9 - Niners 17

"Flat, Listless, Inconsistent, Uninspiring" is how I would describe the performance of the Raider players and coaching staff vs. the Niners. After opening the game with 2 decent offensive drives (13 plays, 79 yards, FG; 12 plays, 55 yards, FG), the offense went into hibernation. QB Campbell's indecisiveness and poor accuracy was painful to watch.

Instead of building on a 6-0 lead, the Raiders allowed the Niners to hang around by playing the worst, unimaginative, unproductive football this season (INT, 3-out, 3-out, 3-out, 3-out, 3-out, FG, 3-out, INT). After taking the lead early, the Raiders produced only 2 first downs in the final 9 possessions. For the day, the Raiders accumulated only 69 net yards passing.

When the Raiders offense was stuck in neutral, the team desperately needed OC Hue Jackson to make some critical in-game adjustments, get more creative with the playcalling, and attempt to light a spark in the offense. The offensive calls from the 3rd possession to the end of the game were predictable, stale, and completely vanilla. Why not stir the pot and give Boller a shot? Why not attempt a few trick plays or deep strike pass plays? The offense was in a rut yet there seemed to be no attempt to shake things up.

Although the Raiders defense can hardly be blamed for this loss, it lacked the big play ability to create more separation. LB McClain and CB Asomugha both had opportunities to come up with pivotal interceptions but were unable to secure the ball. Creating zero takaways kept the Niners on life support until they were finally able to get in the end zone largely on 3 plays (Crabtree 32 yd TD reception; Gore 64 yard run that led to Davis 17 yd TD).

This loss was the equivalent of a slow water torture. Personally, I'd rather see a team pull out all the stops in an attempt to win than dial it down to an auto-pilot comatose and try to hang on to a win.

Monday, October 11, 2010

13 Game Gorilla Rolls Off Raiders Backs

Raiders 35 - Chargers 27

This game was the most exciting, big play filled, and inspirational Raider victory that I've witnessed in a very long time. To bust up the 13 game losing streak to the Chargers and the manner in which it was accomplished made it extra sweet. Never mind that the Raiders secondary was torched for 415 yards passing. Doesn't matter that the Chargers offense compiled 228 more yards and converted 15 more first downs. When push came to shove, this Raiders TEAM showed grit, heart, and were extremely opportunistic.

Here are some random comments and a chronological list of pivotal moments and extraordinary plays worth noting:

Opening Drive of the game: S.D. goes 3 and out; Rock Cartright stuffs Scifer's punt.

Result: Safety and early 2-0 lead.

Comment: Great start by D and Special Teams to get the fans energized.

2nd SD Drive: S.D. goes 3 and out; Brett Myers dives to block Scifer's punt attempt.

Result: Hiram Eugene scoops it up for an easy TD. Raiders 12-0 lead.

Comment: As my brother said, "The Chargers special teams coach will be flippin' burgers on Monday"

3rd SD Drive: SD offense churns out 5 first downs and moves from own 20 yard line down to the Raiders 1 yard line. On 3-1 and goal play, rarely used LB Ricky Brown stops RB Tolbert and causes a fumble recovered by Mike Mitchell.

Result: Raiders D denies Chargers in the red zone with a key, goal line takeaway.

Comment: 2 early themes for the day are established ... make a play when you have to and you don't have to be a "star" player to make impact plays. 1st 3 possessions by S.D. and the roll call is Cartright, Myers, Eugene, Brown, Mitchell.

4th SD Drive: After torching Routt for a 55 yard bomb to WR Floyd, the Chargers have the ball in the red zone once again. On 2-7 from the Raider 14 yard line, Matt Shaughnessy sacks QB Rivers and causes a fumble recovered by LaMar Houston.

Result: Raiders D denies the Chargers in the red zone with another opportunistic takeaway.

Comment: Shaughnessy deserves more snaps on the DLine. In my opinion, Shaughnessy is the most consistent and active DLineman in providing QB pressure. He is relentless in his pursuit of the QB and an unsung hero of the DLine.

Raiders 3rd Quarter Offensive Drive (7:31): Down 24-15 and starting the possession at their own 3 yard line, QB Campbell showed tremendous poise. After reflecting on this crazy game, in my mind, this series was the difference maker. If the Raiders offense stalls near the goal line, the Chargers are looking at a short field, momentum, and a chance to put their foot on the Raiders throat by potentially going up by 16.

Result: Campbell directs a balanced attack covering 97 yards and converting on 5 third downs culminating in a beautiful throw and catch by Zach Miller in the back of the end zone. Raiders right back in the game (SD 24 - Oak 22).

Comment: When the Campbell TD was challenged by Norv Turner all I could think was "Oh no, here we go again with the refs screwin' us!". It was a mini deja vu moment of the Murphy TD in the opener last year.

Raiders 4th Quarter Offensive Drive (11:55): After the Chargers kicked a FG to press their lead to 27-22, the Raiders offense answers the call again. This drive had key completions to Murphy, Miller including a gutsy 4-1 call where TE Myers went out in the flat and picked up 12 yards.

Result: Raiders take the lead on a Bush 3 yard TD run. Raiders 28 - Chargers 27

Comment: With McFadden out, Bush steps up for 100+ yards. When Ski went down, Campbell moved the offense efficiently.

S.D. Offensive Series (Own 28 yard line; 3:31) : With plenty of time on the clock, 3 time outs, and only needing a FG, the Chargers looked to be in a position to put the Raider fans' hearts in a blender. As the Chargers stormed easily up the field, gaining 4 1st downs completions to the Raiders 34 yard line, the game was on the line. DC Marshall dials up the blitz pressure ... better late than never.

Result: Safety Michael Huff makes the play of the game. Instead of Huff going for a sack, he wisely attacked Rivers throwing arm causing a fumble. Safety Tyvon Branch scoops up the fumble and takes it 64 yards to paydirt. Raiders 35 - Chargers 27

Comment: This play completely flipped the script. Instead of another close heartbreaking loss, the Raiders finished the job with a knock out.